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The Worst (And Best) Place To Complain About Debt Collection Harassment

There’s nothing illegal or immoral about being a debt collector.  Everyone’s got to have a job, and there’s no law against choosing this one.  But the folks who call you are often given financial incentives (read: bonuses) for performing (read: getting money from people).  For those collectors who don’t make enough to support themselves and their families, cutting corners to get you to pay may seem like an attractive way to go.

It doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t change the fact that resorting to harassment is illegal (and, to my mind, immoral).

When the debt collection efforts go out of bounds, there’s one place you should cross off your list when it comes to registering complaints.  Thankfully, there are some excellent options as well.

The Worst Place To Complain

I’m all in favor of giving people the ability to voice their concerns about businesses. The Better Business Bureau, however, is not the place for it.

First, in spite of the official-sounding name, the BBB is not connected in any way with the government. It’s a private corporation that allows businesses to become members for a fee.

When a business applies to be a member, it gets to put the BBB logo on its website and other materials. Doesn’t make the business good or bad; accreditation indicates only that the check cleared.

The Better Business Bureau gathers information and reviews from the public and other businesses to vet businesses to become members. It doesn’t fine businesses, doesn’t reprimand owners, and doesn’t stand in judgment. To my knowledge, the only thing the BBB can do is kick out a business and refuse to accept the check it sends next year for accreditation.

In other words, when you complain to the BBB about debt collection harassment there will be no benefit to you whatsoever.

The Best Places To Complain

There are numerous state, federal, local and private options for complaints about debt collection harassment. They are:

Federal Trade Commission: The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection collects complaints about debt collection and other consumer matters. Over time, the FTC can detect patterns of wrong-doing, which may lead to investigations and prosecutions. The FTC does not resolve individual complaints, however.

State Agencies: In New York, the Division of Consumer Protection takes your complaints about debt collection harassment. In California, the California Department of Consumer Affairs does the same thing. You should check out the resources in your state to find the appropriate state agency.

Local Resources: For New York City residents, the Department of Consumer Affairs mediates consumer complaints against a business. All debt collection agencies that attempt to collect from New York City consumers must be registered with DCA.

Private Options: Under the FDCPA, you can sue the debt collector for being abusive and harassing. That doesn’t mean you get to sue just because you don’t want to pay the bill – the law dictates the rules concerning how the agency can try to collect against you. There are various state laws that do the same thing, and all provide for the winning consumer to have their legal fees paid by the collection agency.

Pick Your Solution Based On Your Goals

Maybe you’re looking to alert the rest of the world about a particular collection agency. Perhaps you want a proverbial pound of flesh. Some folks seek both. Whatever you’re looking to do, there’s a good solution for you.

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By |June 22nd, 2012|

About the Author:

I’ve been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I’m a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.

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